March 4, 1908: Catastrophe in Collinwood


Are Our Children Safer?

Lake View School
Collinwood, Ohio

One hundred and five years ago this morning, disaster struck Lake View School in Collinwood, Ohio.

Fritz Hirter, school custodian, had arrived near dawn on a late winter’s day,  to fire up the school’s coal burning furnace.  The children were let into the building around 8AM and the fire was reported by a student at about 9:30.

The next minutes were a panicked blur as fire ascended the open 3-floor staircase trapping students and causing a blinding rush for the few exits.

Bodies piled up at the doorway to the point where pulling the children out was impossible.


Collinwood Memorial

172 students and two adults were killed in minutes, some as they were forced to jump from upper floors.  Bodies were so badly burned they were unidentifiable and were buried in a mass grave at Lake View Cemetery.

Where fire is concerned, today’s schools are some of the safest buildings in America but our children are not much safer.

A Collinwood parent, circa 1908, would doubtlessly be astonished to learn that in 2013, the number one threat to children is murder by gun fire, often in mass killings and frequently at the hands of fellow students or young adults.

What would they say from their vantage point afar?  No doubt they would marvel at both our schools and our unwillingness to keep our children safe in them.

As, indeed they should.





  • Maxim says:

    Many of us probably agree with your feeling that guns are a greater threat in schools than fire, but where’s the data and the sources that led you to your conclusion?

    The majority of the article includes gruesome details about a fire that happened 100 years ago. That’s a long way from the subject of guns in schools.

    • Eric Lamar says:

      To your first point, name a school fire that has killed 23 students (Newtown). You can’t.

      To your second, the subhead of the post is: “Are Our Children Safer?”

      They are not.


  • Henry Lawrence says:

    Our children should be safe at schools but in my humble opinion, guns in schools is not the way, that only places more guns in schools lessening their safety significantly. There is no proof that rhaving guns in schools makes them safer for our children.

  • E Brodnick says:

    “Bodies were so badly burned they were unidentifiable and were buried in a mass grave at Lake View Cemetery.” Not all the victims were buried at Lake View – let alone in one mass grave.

    And why drag unrelated issues into this?

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